Re: Why Sun never make Java on FreeBSD

; Date: Mon Jan 09 2006

Tags: Java

I saw this question ( Solaris vs FreeBSD: Why Sun never make Java on FreeBSD and thought to say a couple things. Note that I am not involved with the management decisions around this, and don't know the reasons why Sun doesn't ship the JDK for FreeBSD. But what I see is that Frans Thamura's blog posting ascribes conspiratorial schemings on Sun that probably aren't accurate.

One thing is that Java is hardly absent from FreeBSD. There is an independant port whose home page is here: and it appears to support 1.5 (a lot depends on what is meant by "stable")

A very simple consideration should be fairly obvious. And if you understand Occam's Razor, you might want to follow the simple explanation rather than a complex one.

When Sun "supports" a new platform for Java there's a lot of cost and resources that have to be lined up. There's developer expertise required (in knowing the special features of the OS), a lot of the native code would have to be ported to the new platform, and the testing team has to add multiple platform instances to the test matrix. All that (and more) adds up to a considerable cost, making the simple plausible explanation to be that Sun's management would want to see a business justification for spending that money.

See? No need to ascribe conspiracies and scheming! Maybe it's just about the money. (NOTE: I do not know this one way or another ... I'm just offering this plausible explanation)

Source: (


If Frans had supplied information rather than just making an accusation I'd investigate like I did last time FreeBSD had a problem with their Java feature. While your reasoning about why Sun can't directly support every platform is correct, Sun has in fact for many years made arrangements for the FreeBSD community to be able to supply a JRE with their platform. There was a problem at the start of 2005 that was the result of a misunderstanding, but we got that resolved and I have not heard of any other issues.

If there is a problem I would much rather someone wrote to ombudsman-AT-sun-DOT-com with the details rather than making the sort of unsupported statement Frans just made in a public place.

Posted by: webmink on January 09, 2006 at 08:36 PM

As a corallary, however, I do believe that FreeBSDs poor support of Java will drive users towards Solaris/OpenSolaris.

I say this simply because while the technology and underpinnings of BSD attract many users, what I think also attracts users is its excellent build and packaging system. But also what attracts users is simple that BSD is a Complete Operating System.

With Linux we have distributions, with different userlands tied to patched Linux kernels. When someone says "I'm running XYZ on Linux", they really mean "I'm running XYZ on Distro Q".

Saying that you "run Linux" doesn't say enough about the platform for many to give an appropriate response to a question. But if you say you're running FreeBSD (or Open, NetBSD), that pretty much says it all.

Because of its history and architecture, the BSD community is far less fragmented than the Linux community is.

Many are attracted to this sense of platform stability, knowing everyone else is on the same page during discussions, and knowing that because of the dominance of the platform in the community, more folks within the community are going to have similar experiecnce and be able to offer cogent advice.

Solaris offers similar stability. Even though we have OpenSolaris, and it is in some ways traveling down the Linux distro road, we still have Solaris proper. A reasonable bedrock of stability that someone can base applications upon.

Now, anyone attracted to that kind of stability, but also attracted to Java, in the past, either had to grin a bear the Linux world by using one of its many distributions, or fight the battles of using Java on FreeBSD.

But today you have both the BSD like consistency and platform stability plus a top drawer Java implementation on commodity hardware, for free, with the modern Solaris release.

If Java were better on FreeBSD, I think anyone using the platform would not consider Solaris (unless they like a particular unique Solaris feature), but it would not surprise me if many of them are giving it serious consideration now.

I would like to see a more de facto and solid OpenSolaris distribution inspired by FreeBSD, something that offers similar ease of patching, updating, and rebuilding the FreeBSD enjoys today as well as the excellent packaging system.

I understand how folks will want to (and have) put their stamp on OpenSolaris and take advantage of the opportunity at this early stage, but I do hope that it settles down soon. I do no want OpenSolaris to end up like the vast array of Linux distros as they, personally, complicate the entire process of initial selection, support and 3rd pary packages.

Finally, folks can criticize Sun for not supporting Java directly on FreeBSD, but they don't seem to be criticizing BEA or IBM for not supporting it either.

Posted by: whartung on January 10, 2006 at 11:04 AM

Indeed, I'd assume that Sun concentrates its monetary investment in porting and maintaining their software on those platforms where they can expect to profit from monetarily, being a business, and all that. Currently that's sparc/x86/amd64-solaris (Sun sells servers), x86/amd64-linux(Sun sells servers, and it's pretty popular), and x86/amd64-Windows(Sun sells servers, and it's very, very popular). For platforms without companies willing to invest the cash involved in that activity, there are various volunteer projects (currently not certified as compatible) around free software runtimes, like gcj, Kaffe, Harmony, and others, or volunteer projects to port over and certify other, not as liberally licensed runtimes, like FreeBSD's Java project, and Blackdown.

FWIW, the Swing implementation in GNU Classpath is evolving very nicely, and I'd expect to see more Swing applications 'just work' this year on free runtimes. Less reason for people to be desperate about the lack of Java runtimes on their favourite platforms, criticize Sun for it, and more 'anywhere' feathers for the WORA cap.

I am looking forward to seeing Kaffe run on powerpc-opensolaris :)

cheers, dalibor topic

Posted by: robilad on January 10, 2006 at 02:08 PM

About the Author(s)

David Herron : David Herron is a writer and software engineer focusing on the wise use of technology. He is especially interested in clean energy technologies like solar power, wind power, and electric cars. David worked for nearly 30 years in Silicon Valley on software ranging from electronic mail systems, to video streaming, to the Java programming language, and has published several books on Node.js programming and electric vehicles.